Golf Begins at… ?
Most of us know that Tiger Woods started playing golf at the age of two, giving him the required conditioning for his 13 Major Championship wins, but do we really have to start golf so early in life to be able to enjoy it? Apparently not!
Most people in the ‘over fifties’ bracket, probably feel a little daunted taking on ANY new endeavour, especially ones where they are on public display. Not knowing the ‘rules of behaviour’ expected of them in a new setting can be just as off-putting as not being familiar with the ‘Rules of the game’.
We can all remember times in our lives when we did something new and just how ‘prickly’ we felt about being ‘first-timers’. The heart beating a little faster, the furtive looks around to see what everyone else was doing, or to see if anyone had noticed our ‘newness’. This can be even more daunting when taking on a not so- simple sport like golf at a not-so-young age.
However, golf is a game where nobody can declare they will be at their best on any given day, with even the best of players knowing they can be at their best one day…and the complete opposite the next.
In fact, the inability for any of us to maintain total consistency in our game, not just from one day to the next, but even from one golf shot to the next, is part of the allure of the sport.
Who would want to do anything where they knew the result was almost guaranteed? Fortunately, for people taking up golf for the first time, the ‘older hands’ who are experienced players, are very aware of their own inability to ‘control’ the game and they all recall their own first faltering steps when trying to even make contact with the ball, let alone control where it went. These ‘older hands’ include Club Professionals, Golf Club Managers, Club Committee Officers and quite often, just average Club Members, who become ‘volunteers’, providing their time and knowledge to assist newcomers in getting started.
In today’s world of awareness, the ‘introduction’ process for new players is not limited to learning about how to ‘hit the ball’ but includes a walk-through of the facilities, exposure to the ‘procedures’ around the Club and golf course, the Rules, the Etiquette and all of the things that will allow a newcomer to ‘feel at home’ as soon as possible. This ‘welcoming of the newbie’ is probably more evident when bringing in the over-fifties, as the Golf Club Professional and the other ‘helpers’ are aware that this group may be seen as people who ‘should know these things’, purely because they are in the mature age bracket.
For those taking on the game as a ‘mature starter’, these welcoming procedures at Golf Clubs can make a big difference to the level of enjoyment any new player achieves and a positive step in having the ‘try it out newbie’ deciding to keep playing the game.
The ‘introduction process’ contains another very relevant aspect for the ‘mature set’. It isn’t exactly a ‘dating program’ but it is certainly a platform for making new acquaintances, who may well, over time, become close friends.
Just as important as becoming comfortable within the golf setting, is of course, being able to learn the basics for playing the game and being able to take your place on the golf course with at least some level of ease, even if not making it to the winner’s dais right away. It is often the fear that ‘I am too old to learn’ that puts many over-fifties off taking up golf, but they are usually not aware of just how many people take up golf at a later age because they have never had the time or opportunity to do so in the past.
I recently experienced seeing a 68-year old take his first tentative swings and he was quite exhilarated when the ball actually got airborne, even though a little off target. He did have the guidance of a master teacher in Tom Linskey, Head Coach at Australian Golf Schools, based at Emerald Lakes Golf Club, Carrara. Tom is a perfect example of the aforementioned “helper team”, who make all the difference in newcomers settling in and “getting into the swing of things”.
Coaches like Tom and his team gain as much satisfaction from seeing new players get the ball into flight as they do hone up the skills of the highly competitive players they coach, in fact, it seems the ‘older newbies’ provide a special element to the ‘job satisfaction locker’, with the coaches sharing in the joy these new players experience with even the slightest improvement in their game. With golf not being a team sport, one of the best parts of it is that we can all just enjoy testing ourselves against our own ‘personal best’, without the pressure of needing to play to any pre-set standard, so long as we know the Rules & Etiquette of the game and keep up with the play.
So, the answer to the… “How late is too late” question, seems to be the old adage: You’re never too late to learn, and in this case never too late to enjoy the learning process.
Peter is a former professional Golf Coach, living on the Gold Coast.